Yemen: UN experts call on Houthi de facto authorities to halt execution of human rights defender Fatima Al-Arwali

Geneva, 18 February, 2024.- UN experts* today urged the Ansar Allah or Houthi movement – de facto authorities in Sana’a and much of northern Yemen – to halt the imminent execution of human rights defender Fatima Saleh Al-Arwali, saying it would constitute an arbitrary execution and a flagrant violation of international human rights law and standards.

“We urge all relevant authorities to ensure that Fatima Al-Arwali is not executed. Her execution would be a violation of the universal and inalienable right to life and an extreme form of gender-based violence,” the UN experts said.

Fatima Al-Arwali was the head of the Habitat Organization for Human Rights Development and the former head of the Yemen office of the Women’s Leadership Union. In recent years, she has documented and publicly denounced the recruitment of children and human rights violations against women captured by the Houthi movement.

Al-Arwali has been deprived of her liberty since August 2022 and held in gruesome conditions, including incommunicado detention, without access to a judicial authority and denied contact with relatives or a legal advisor of her choice. On 5 December 2023, a court set up by the Houthi de facto authorities sentenced Fatima Al-Arwali to death on vague charges of “espionage and aiding hostile parties”.

Reports indicate that Al-Arwali’s execution is scheduled to take place in Tahrir Square in Sana’a on 21 February 2024.

“We remain concerned about credible allegations of Fatima Al-Arwali’s ill-treatment in detention, including gender-based violence, and serious violations of due process guarantees and the right to a defence during her trial,” the experts said.

“Al-Arwali’s death sentence appears to violate fundamental principles and rules of international law and must not be carried out,” they said.

The experts urged de facto authorities in Sana’a to promptly review Fatima Al-Arwali’s case from the beginning in accordance with basic international principles of fair trial and without any gender discrimination.

“Sentencing a person to death and carrying out the execution on vague charges, without a credible judicial process and without access to legal representation of their choice, is contrary to the most fundamental principles of international human rights law,” they said.

The UN experts are alarmed by the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, acts amounting to enforced disappearance and ill-treatment, including gender-based violence in detention, to which Al-Arwali was subjected prior to her death sentence—all of which may have been in retaliation for her work as a human rights defender.

“Fatima Al-Arwali’s execution would violate the most basic rules of international law and international norms regarding the death penalty and the protection of the rights of women and girls. We urge relevant authorities to stop it,” the experts said. “The world is watching.”

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